News: Obama Leads in Close Race on Eve of Election

Photo Credit: RealClearPolitics

Map showing the dispostion and electoral weight of each state, with red favoring Romney, blue favoring Obama, and gray indicating a toss-up.

After more than a year of campaigning and nearly $2 billion in spending, the 2012 campaign season is finally nearing an end. Though the math looks better for Obama, the outcome is far from certain.

Boosted by his handling of Hurricane Sandy, Obama holds a small but significant lead in the electoral college. For Romney, the path to the White House runs through Ohio (18 electoral votes) where Obama has maintained a razor-thin edge in most polls. According to poll averages from RealClearPolitics, voters in Ohio prefer Obama over Romney by 2.8 percentage points.

Without a victory in Ohio, the Romney-Ryan ticket would need to carry virtually all other swing states, many of which lean towards Obama. As a possible alternative, GOP strategists have pointed in recent weeks to a possible upset in Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), but most polls in that state give Obama a lead of 4 or more percentage points.

In national polls, however, the president’s lead evaporates. RealClearPolitics reports an average advantage for Obama of just 4 tenths of a point, a statistical tie. Obama could conceivably win re-election and lose the popular vote, an outcome sure to provoke protests and delegitimize his second term. Such a result would invite comparison to Republican George W. Bush’s 2000 victory over Democrat Al Gore. Mr. Bush lost the popular vote by half a percentage point, but narrowly obtained the 270 electoral votes necessary to claim the presidency. (The election hinged on Florida, which broke for Bush by a historically thin margin of 537 votes out of over 5.5 million cast.)

Whoever wins the presidency, expect gridlock: Republicans appear to have a safe majority in the House of Representatives, while Democrats are poised to retain control of the Senate.